Thursday, August 7, 2014

World Cup Qualification: Hong Kong Slams the IRB over Repecharge

Photo URU
In the aftermath of having the dream of qualifying for a first ever Rugby World Cup ended players and officials from Hong Kong have come out with strong words against the IRB over what they claim to have been an unjust. Both Hong Kong and Zimbabwe wre forced to travel to different continents to play in elimination matches this past Saturday but never had the opportunity of hosting the opposition. This difference is one of many complaints to have come out of Hong Kong following Uruguay's home victory over the number two ranked Asian rugby nation.

From not only a Hong Kong / Zimbabwe perspective but from a logical point of view the decision to have one and not two matches at the repecharge Semi Finals stage is indeed extremely questionable. The method utilized by the IRB allocated home advantage to Uruguay and Russia due to them having a superior position in the IRB World Rankings. 

They therefore had the opportunity to enter their repsective fixtures as favorites and will now face-off in the Final Place Play-Off in September and October. The winner will qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 and face Australia, England, Fiji and Wales in Pool A. Of Uruguay and Russia it is the South American country that holds a superior IRB World Rankings and consequently it will be the South Americans that host the return fixture. 

Russia v Uruguay will be played in Siberia followed by the reserve fixture in Montevideo. Uruguay considers this ideal as it means it will have home advantage going into the return match. Officials consider it to be an advantage but it is something that neither Hong Kong nor Zimbabwe were entitled to. Hong Kong's team flew from Asia to South America in what was a thirty-seven hour voyage while Zimbabwe flew to Krasnoyarsk, in northern Asia to face Russia who was Europe 3.

In playing at home the higher ranked teams had an added advantage which was brought into question by Alvin Sallay. Writing for the South Cinha Morning Post Sallay urged the IRB to level the playing field. ''The IRB must give aspiring teams the best chance of making their dreams come true''. This need not suggest that Hogn Kong and Zimbabwee ought to have hosted the matches but it does suggest that a one-off fixture was controversial.

Hong Kong's players and coaches acknowledge that Uruguay was the better side but they nonetheless firmly believe that they could have won. Captain Nick Hewson and Leon Wei Hon-sum were singled out as contributing to the result as both players were yellow carded. With both being forwards the pack was a player down for a quarter of the match and Uruguay's scrum took control.

With the scoreline being just 6-3 at the interval Hong Kong certainly had reason to believe it had a opportunity to win. Dai Rees commented that ''home advantage swung the balance heavily in Uruguay's favor, resulting in a lop-sides playing field. It's a pity such an important occasion should be decided on factors like travel.''

Rees who is a former Welsh international also felt that the referee was not partial and that the IRB failed in its responsibility to allocate appropriate officials. Questions were directed at the global governing body for allocating an Argentine official as the match referee. Federico Anselmo was the official which Hong Kong considered not appropriate as he is a South American. Russia v Zimbabwe was refereed by Nigel Owens of Wales, a European member as is Russia.


  1. Nah, Uruguay were just that much better than Hong Kong, never looked like losing or conceding a try.

  2. I agree that the current repechage format is unfair.